Joseph Needham, the Cambridge Don who opened the door to China’s lost history

May 5, 2015

I was once an avid reader, but then I became a writer and eventually an author. I preface this exploration of Simon Winchester’s “The Man Who Loved China” with that opening sentence, because I want to make it clear that when I decided to become a writer back in 1968, I went from reading one or two paperbacks daily to reading maybe one or two a month. It takes time to learn the craft of writing and more time to write, edit and revise.

For that reason, I’ve been aware of “The Man Who Loved China” for several years, and put off buying and reading it due to how much time I actually have to read.  Then, one recent Sunday, after eating at Herbivore in Berkeley, California, I walked to Half Price Books and also stopped at Pegasus Books where I found a used, unabridged copy of the audio book and bought it—9 hours on 8 compact discs.

I was on the last disc when I decided to buy the paperback and add it to my China collection.

To borrow the blurb on the cover of the paperback, I found this biography to be “The fantastic story of the eccentric scientist who unlocked the mysteries of the Middle Kingdom.” I was blown away with the story of Joseph Needham’s life—he was an incredible, free thinking genius who refused to conform.

I totally agree with this pull quote for the YouTube video above: “In sumptuous and illuminating detail, Simon Winchester, the bestselling author of The Professor and the Madman (“Elegant and scrupulous” —New York Times Book Review) and Krakatoa (“A mesmerizing page-turner”—Time) brings to life the extraordinary story of Joseph Needham, the brilliant Cambridge scientist who unlocked the most closely held secrets of China, long the world’s most technologically advanced country in THE MAN WHO LOVED CHINA.”

Because of what I learned about Joseph Needham and his Science and Civilisation in China (1954–2008), a series of books initiated and edited by this British biochemist and self-trained Sinologist (1900–1995), I want to share a hateful, ignorant, mean, trollish, biased, racist comment that arrived recently for one of the posts on this Blog.   The reason I’m doing this is because this one comment represents the thinking of far too many ignorant fools outside of China and specifically in the United States.

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The post this comment was left for was Amy Chua talks to China’s Tiger Women. That comment will never be approved for that post.

“Tiger parenting is great if you want your child to be as dull-witted as the 1.4 billion people in the PRC. It is also great if your desire is to rear morally void sociopaths who walk by people dying on the streets rather than helping them. Those same people traded their children and ate them during the ‘great leap forward’. Any race which can feast on the flesh of their children should not be emulated. China has been around for 5000 years and to show for this they have ‘death by 1000 cuts’, infanticide and insolence.

“If tiger parenting is so great then what are the results? China is an innovation laggard, (sure they write patents but for the most part they are junk. See how many they write but fail to monetize those patents).

“Aside from this, where is China’s Einstein, Van Gogh, Davinci, Plato , Homer, etc. Five thousand years of history, twenty percent of the world’s population and two great thinkers. What a pathetic shit-stain.
Have a great time there you sell out piece of shit.”

****

Science and Civilisation in China deals with the history of science and technology in China, and the series was on the Modern Library Board’s 100 Best Nonfiction books of the 20th century.

In 1954, Needham—along with an international team of collaborators—initiated the project to study the science, technology, and civilisation of ancient China. This project produced a series of volumes published by Cambridge University Press. The project is still continuing under the guidance of the Publications Board of the Needham Research Institute (NRI), chaired by Christopher Cullen.

If you visit this page at Cambridge.org, you will read: “Dr. Joseph Needham’s account of the Chinese achievement in science and technology will stand as one of the great works of our time. It has been acclaimed by specialists in both East and West and also by readers with wider and more general interests. The text, based on research of a high critical quality, is supported by many hundreds of illustrations and is imbued with a warm appreciation of China. … He begins by examining the structure of the Chinese language; he reviews the geography of China and the long history of its people, and discusses the scientific contacts which have occurred throughout the centuries, between Europe and East Asia.”

Needham left us with a question that he never answered, and real China experts—not the trollish fool who left that comment on my Blog I’m sharing only in this post—are still debating that answer today, an answer to the curious fact that after centuries of scientific and technological creativity, everything in China suddenly ground to a halt in approximately 1500 AD. Needham wanted to know what happened, but he never answered his own question.

Needham’s research on China discovered that the ancient Chinese who lived before Europe’s Christian era (Before the birth of Jesus Christ), the old Chinese living when Europe had its Dark Ages, and the medieval Chinese en masse of the twelfth and thirteenth European centuries—did essentially all the inventing (an average of 15 important innovations a century for a total of more than 1,500). Then came the sixteenth century, when the Renaissances was fully under way in Europe, and the creative passions of China suddenly seemed to dry up; the energy began to ebb away and die.

Some critics claim the reason for this is because China is not a democracy, but that can’t be right because China has never been a democracy—especially during the fifteen hundred years it was the wealthiest and most scientifically and technological advanced country on the planet. Starting with the brutal Qin Dynasty (221 BC—206BC), followed by the Han (206 BC – 220 AD), then the Tang (618 – 907 AD) and Song Dynasties (960-1127 AD), China was ruled by emperors and a rigid imperial bureaucracy with a brutal legal system. To discover more, I suggest reading Duhaime’s Timetable of World Legal History—“China has the oldest continuously operating legal system in the world.”

I think the answer to Needham’s question starts with the Mongols—the first ethnic minority to conquer and rule China—that founded the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and that led to a revolt by a number of Han Chinese groups, including the Red Turbans in 1351. The Red Turbans were affiliated with the White Lotus, a Buddhist secret society. The first Ming emperor started out as a penniless peasant and a Buddhist Monk who joined the Red Turbans in 1352. As the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), he established a network of secret police from his own palace guard. They were partly responsible for the loss of 100,000 lives in several purges over the three decades of his rule. In addition, it was under Ming rule that the first Europeans, the Portuguese, established trade with China and settled Macau in 1557 as a permanent trade base in China—and this would turn out to be a horrible mistake for China.

It didn’t help that in the early 17th century, because of unusually dry and cold weather that shortened the growing season—effects of a larger ecological event now known as the Little Ice Age—famine, alongside tax increases, widespread military desertions, a declining relief system, and natural disasters such as flooding and inability of the government to manage irrigation and flood-control projects properly caused widespread loss of life and normal civility. The central government, starved of resources, could do very little to mitigate the effects of these calamities. Making matters worse, a widespread epidemic spread across China from Zhejiang to Henan, killing an unknown but large number of people. In fact, the deadliest earthquake of all time, the Shaanxi earthquake of 1556, occurred during the Jiajing Emperor’s reign, killing approximately 830,000 people.

Then the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912 AD)—another minority from north of the Great Wall, the Manchu—swept aside the Ming, and the Manchu were very suspicious of the Han Chinese. To avoid a revolution like the one that rid China of the Mongols, the Qing Emperors and their Manchu armies brutally suppressed the Han Chinese and deliberately kept competent people from rising to vital position in government and the military. Before the Qing, the most common method used to promote Han Chinese from within was through meritocracy using a university exam system that dates back to the Han Dynasty.

But even suppressing the Han Chinese and keeping them from positions of leadership in almost every sector of the government—note that it was mostly Han Chinese who were responsible for all of the impressive scientific and technological innovations that Needham documented taking place in China for more than fifteen hundred years before the 16th century—didn’t stop the rebellions. Under the Qing Dynasty, China suffered a series of devastating rebellions that claimed more than 60 million lives. The most devastating was the Taiping Rebellion led by a Christian convert who claimed to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ—if European Christian missionaries had not forced their way into China following the first Opium War, this rebellion would have never happened. Then there were the two Opium Wars—started by Christian countries—the Boxer Rebellion, the 1st Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) followed by the second and most devastating Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) that alone caused more than 20 million deaths in China.

How can anyone expect a country to prosper and continue to lead the world in innovation during an era starting in the 16th century that was plagued by natural disasters, rebellions, and wars that culminated with the Civil War between the Communists and the Nationalists ending with Mao’s devastating Cultural Revolution that destroyed its business and education sectors?

When Mao died in 1976, China’s education system was all but gone and had to be rebuilt from scratch, and many of the country’s public school teachers were dead from suicide or execution. In addition, if you read “The Man Who Loved China,” you will also discover that during World War II, one goal of the Japanese was to destroy China’s educational system, and the Japanese armies did all they could to destroy China’s universities, burn China’s libraries, and execute China’s scholars whenever possible.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Comparing Cultural Wars: the U.S. versus China

April 4, 2015

In 1965, China’s Mao Zedong launched a cultural war against the excesses of capitalism, and this was led by the people, the workers and their children, and the capitalists in China and anyone who was accused of supporting the lifestyle of the rich and famous was targeted leading to millions of suicides.

For the last few decades, millions of people in the United States have been victims of its own cultural war, but this one is the reverse of the one that was led by Mao in China. America’s cultural war is being led by a handful of billionaire oligarchs who are transforming American into a money making paradise for those who have the most wealth and power.

This morning I read a piece in the Huffington Post that reported Kansas welfare recipients will be unable to get more than $25 per day in benefits under a new law sent this week to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s desk by the state legislature. To make life worse for people who live in poverty, the state also issues that welfare in the form of a government-issued debit card and required that they take the money out of debit machines that charge 85 cents for each withdrawal after the first one in a month—a windfall for banks and whoever owns those ATM machines but less money to buy food. The number of Kansans receiving benefits has also declined from 38,000 in 2011 to 15,000 last year, state data show.

It is no secret that Republicans (GOP) have waged war on people who live in poverty for decades—and recently GOP representatives have blamed poverty on the poor. Many in the GOP hate Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, unemployment insurance, food stamps, abortion, marijuana, women, and even sexual orientation.

In addition, the GOP and the Democrats also have no problem handing out money to private sector corporations. For instance, the U.S. auto industry, banks, and Wall Street firms. In fact, there are elements in both parties who are handing our children to corporate Charters supported by hedge fund billionaires, the Walton family and the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation so those few individuals grow wealthier off taxes that were originally intended to support the transparent, nonprofit, democratic public schools.

How much does the state and federal government give away to corporations? The answer is more than the country spends on food stamps for people living in poverty, who are far from being lazy, because Recent studies show that 49% of all food stamp participants are children (age 18 or younger), and about 50% of the adults have jobs that pay mostly poverty wages, and, in 2013, for instance, the average SNAP client received a monthly benefit of $133.07, and the average household received $274.98 monthly—compare that number with the money corporations are getting from their state and federal welfare programs.

The New York Times spent 10 months investigating business incentives awarded by hundreds of cities, counties and states. Since there is no nationwide accounting of these incentives, The Times put together a database and found that local governments give up $80.4 billion in incentives given away each year compared to about $75 billion in food stamps to people who live in poverty, so they have enough money to eat and not starve.

Don’t forget, when the GOP blames the poor for their poverty and cuts food stamps to families, as Arkansas is doing, the GOP is waging a war against almost 20 million children living in poverty who can’t work to feed themselves.

However, according to The Times, the number of corporate welfare programs is 1,874. Have you heard Republicans or Democrats call for cuts to corporate welfare?

You might want to click on this link from the New York Times that leads to an interactive map and discover how much corporations are earning off federal and state welfare programs that tax payers are financing.

The New York Times identified 48 companies that have received more than $100 million in state grants since 2007. Some 5,000 other companies have received more than $1 million in recent years.

In fact, Politifact.com reports that it’s mostly true that 9 of the 10 poorest states are ruled by the GOP. PolitiFact.com also reports that it is mostly true that 97 of the country’s 100 poorest counties are in GOP ruled states.

The Washington Post reports, “Republican states have pursued economic and fiscal strategies built around lower taxes, deeper spending cuts and less regulation. They have declined to set up state health-insurance exchanges to implement President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. They have clashed with labor unions. On social issues, they have moved to restrict abortion rights or to enact voter-identification laws, in the name of ballot integrity, that critics say hamper access to voting for the poor and minorities.”

The cultural revolution in China that took place between 1965–1976, and the one being waged in the United States today have one thing in common: the public schools and the teachers who taught in them were attacked in China back then (but not today—after Mao died in 1976, China, under new leadership, started rebuilding its public schools and supporting its teachers) as they are being attacked in the United States today, because a transparent, non-profit, public education system where teachers have the freedom to express without fear what they think about current issues to the children they teach, who then talk to their parents, is a threat to the few who want to control the destructive cultural changes taking place, and it doesn’t matter if the cultural war is being led, for instance, by America’s Bill Gates, the Walton family, the Koch brothers or Mao Zedong in China. To drastically alter a culture, the few in power who are behind the changes must silence their critics and create an environment of punishment and fear, and this means silencing the teachers.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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What is it about the Asian Culture?

January 14, 2015

On Tuesday January 13, I briefly mentioned the 6th Annual Asian Heritage Street Celebration that took place in San Francisco on May 15, 2010. This post continues with that event.

There were Chinese, Thai, Tibetans—and even the Falun Gong (using another name to disguise who they were)—a free Burma booth, and booths for Dragon Boat Races, and the Lion Dance.

I was there with President Margie Yee Webb of the Sacramento branch of the California Writers Club (CWC), Frances Kakugawa, and Teresa LeYung Ryan. That year, the CWC’s booth was in front of the San Francisco library.

Authors Frances Kakugawa and Teresa LyYung Ryan at the CWC booth

It’s estimated that 100,000 people attends this street celebration each year.

Many people stopped by our booth to talk about China and/or buy books. By noon, I went for a walk toward Little Saigon. Booths lined the street for blocks. It was obvious from what I saw that all of Asia’s cultures have been influenced by China one way or another.

Lion Dance booth

California Dragon Boat Races

The Chinese believe in lucky symbols and bamboo plays a part in that belief.  China was the super power in Asia for more than two thousand years. At one booth, I stopped to take a few photos of a Chinese band playing traditional Asian music.  All the instruments I’ve written on this Blog about were there.

The silk trade started in China and there was a booth with a woman creating tapestries from silk thread.

Even the Glamour and Grace of Miss Chinatown USA was represented.

It was a long and rewarding day that went by too fast, but it was a harmonious day.

Lloyd Lofthouse (me)

When I was still teaching (1975-2005), I learned that by the third generation, the children of most immigrants are assimilated by American culture.

If that is true, why is it that Asians—as an ethnic group—have the lowest incidence of STDs, the lowest unemployment rate, the lowest incidence of drug use and the lowest incidence of teen pregnancy?

In fact, American Asians, including Chinese, tend to graduate from high school with higher GPAs and complete college at rates more than any ethnic group—including White—in the United States. For instance, the Institute of Education Sciences reports that in 2011-12, 93% of Asian/Pacific Islanders; 85% of Whites; 76% of Hispanics and 68% of Blacks, graduated from high school on time.

In addition. The U.S. Census reports that 48.3% of Asian-Americans have earned a Bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 29.7% for Whites, 16.3% for Blacks and 13.5% of Latinos.

Why is education more important to Asian Americans than the other ethnic groups? When I say important, I support that claim by the graduation rates and not by what someone might say. Saying an education is important to you and then you don’t graduate, reveals the truth.

I think the answer is simple, and I’ve talked about this before in other posts—the collective family culture with a strong belief in the importance of education and respect for teachers and elders, and the public schools where I taught for thirty years had a small percentage of Asian students. Most of them always earned higher grades and were concerned about any grade lower than an A. Even an A- minus might worry some Asian-American students. I also seldom had behavior problems from the Asian-American students I taught in the same classes where every racial group was represented.


Opening Ceremony of the 2014 San Francisco Asian Heritage Street Celebration

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010″ Awards

 E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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Thinking about Public Education – China and East Asia versus the United States and Western culture

November 26, 2014

To understand the Chinese mind, we should start with Confucius (552 – 479 BC), who is arguably the most influential person in Chinese history and by extension the rest of East Asia: Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Southeast Asia—thanks to China being a regional super power for more than two thousand years, while its merchants helped spread Chinese cultural influence and thought to the other East Asian countries they traded with.

An important Confucian influence on Chinese society and the rest of East Asia was his focus on education and scholarship, and it’s no secret that Chinese (and other Asian) students put in more hours in classroom study today than their Western counterparts—even in the United States.

In fact, we can measure the influence of Confucius on Asian-American students in the United States. For instance, in 2012, The Washington Post reported, “Researchers found that (high school) graduation rates vary by race, with 91.8 percent of Asian students, 82 percent of whites, 65.9 percent of Hispanics and 63.5 percent of blacks graduating on time.”

In China, the hallmark of Confucius’ thought was his emphasis on education and study. He disparaged those who had faith in natural understanding or intuition and argued that the only real understanding of a subject comes from long and careful study.

Confucius goal was to create gentlemen who carried themselves with grace, spoke correctly, and demonstrated integrity in all things. He had a strong dislike of the sycophantic “petty men,” whose clever talk and pretentious manner easily won them an audience of easy to fool people.

Confucius political/educational philosophy was also rooted in his belief that a ruler should learn self-discipline, should govern his subjects by his own example, and should treat them with love and concern.

To understand the importance of education in Western culture, we first look at what Plato (about 423 – 346 BC), Socrates (about 469 – 399 BC) and Aristotle (384 – 322 BC) thought.

When Plato talked about the education of the body, he said we had to take Spartan military gymnastics as a model, because it was based on physical exercises and prescribed severe control over all pleasures. Plato also argued for the public character of education and that it had to be given in buildings especially built for that purpose. In these schools, boys and girls should receive the same teaching and that the educational process should start as soon as possible, as young as three-to-six-years old.

Socrates believed that there were different kinds of knowledge, important and trivial. He acknowledges that most of us know many “trivial” things, and he said that the craftsman possesses important knowledge, the practice of his craft, but that this is important only to the craftsman. But Socrates thought that the most important of all knowledge was “how best to live.” He concluded that this was not easily answered, and most people lived in shameful ignorance regarding matters of ethics and morals. Socrates devoted much thought to the concept of belief, through the use of logic.

Aristotle, however, said that the purpose of the state was to educate the people—to make them virtuous. He said, virtue was the life principle of the state. The goal of the state was to educate with a view toward its own institutions (to preserve them)—through the political education of all citizens.

It is also arguable that the Bible probably has a large impact on what many Westerners think about the value of an education, but the focus of the Bible is mostly on fear of the Lord when it comes to learning—a mixed message at best when compared to what Confucius, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle thought.

Proverbs 9:9-10 says, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

2 Timothy 3:16 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

2 John 1:9 – Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.


Watch the video to discover that the agenda of the Common Core State Standards in the United States is similar to the agenda of the Prussian Model of Obedience.

In conclusion, the value of an education is clearly defined by Confucius providing a solid foundation for East Asia, while in the West, the message is murky and confusing at best, because the Bible focuses on fear of the Lord, and that Scripture is profitable for teaching and training the righteous compared to Plato’s focus on harsh Spartan physical training in addition to severe self-control over all pleasures starting at an early age, and Aristotle focused on preserving government through political education of the people—in other words, brainwashing them.

Socrates may have been closer to the way Confucius thought about the value of an education, but not as clearly defined as Confucius.

Out of this muddle of Western thought eventually emerged the 18th century, Prussian Industrial Model of education more aligned with what Aristotle thought, and this system was adopted by most of Western Culture during the industrial revolution, including the United States.

The Prussian system instituted compulsory attendance, specific training for teachers, national testing for all students (used to classify children for potential job training), national curriculum set for each grade and mandatory kindergarten.

The Prussian public education model attempted to instill social obedience in the citizens through indoctrination. Every individual had to become convinced, in the core of his being, that the King was just, his decisions always right, and the need for obedience paramount. There was no room for individual thought or questioning authority that would develop in the United States and other Western countries after World War II.

Maybe the blind obedience that gave power to dictators like Hitler had something to do with that change in Western thought about public education, but today, with the emphasis on the Common Core State Standards and harsh punishment of children and teachers who don’t measure up, the United States may be returning to the harsher Aristotelian, Prussian Model of education to brainwash children so they grow up and give blind obedience to their leaders.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The evolution of education and knowledge—China vs. the West

October 28, 2014

In the West, Pliny’s Natural History encyclopedia (77 – 79 A.D.) was a massive compilation of practical information on medicine and on the natural world. The first institutions in Europe that were considered universities were established in Italy, France, Spain and England in the late 11th and 12th centuries A.D., and public education has been a development of the last 150 to 200 years.

In contrast, many Chinese scholars believe the history of education in China can be traced back as far as the 16th century B.C. during the late Xia Dynasty (1523-1027 B.C.). Throughout this period, education was the privilege of the elites. China Education Center.com

It was during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), that China’s first public education system was established, so it should not come as a surprise that the origins of China’s first encyclopedias can be traced to the late Han Dynasty. The biggest Chinese historiographic work of antiquity was written during this period, and Chinese calligraphy developed into an art.

Then, in 986 A.D., a Sung Dynasty emperor ordered that an encyclopedia be written.

This ancient encyclopedia is known as the Four Great Books of Song (宋四大书), which was compiled by Li Fang (925 – 996 A.D.) and other scholars during the Sung Dynasty (960–1279 A.D.).

The last book (Cefu Yuangui) was finished during the 11th century. The four encyclopedias were published with the intent to collect all known knowledge of the time. Source: History Cultural China

There were one thousand scrolls with 2,200 biographical entries.

This ancient example of the literary world printed about a thousand years ago was commissioned by Vice Primer Zhou Bida (Sung Dynasty), who had a group of scholars proof read the original copy of the encyclopedia before block printing it.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Not One Less: a movie review and cultural comparison

July 16, 2014

In the film Not One Less (1999), a thirteen-year-old girl is asked to be the long-term substitute teacher in a small Chinese village.  The teacher tells her that when he returns, if he finds all the students still there, he will pay her ten yuan—less than two American dollars.

When one student, Zhang Huike, stops coming to school, Wei Minzhim, the thirteen-year-old substitute teacher, follows him to the city.

There are several themes in this movie. The most powerful to me was the value of an education and not losing face. If Wei loses Zhang, she will fail the responsibility the teacher gave her. To succeed, she must keep all the students and teach them.

This film reveals one of the greatest cultural differences between the United States and China. More than 2,000 years ago, Confucius taught that an education was the great equalizer and the key to leaving poverty behind.

Today, many Chinese and other Asians still believe this with a passion, and this belief may explain why the on-time high school graduation for Asian-Americans in the United States is the highest when compared to all other racial groups. Culturally, the value of an education may be seen in that high school graduation rate.

On-time high school graduation rate in the U.S. by race for the 2009-10 school year

 Asian/Pacific Islander = 93%
White = 83%
Hispanic = 71%
Black – 66%

In the United States, teachers are often blamed for the lower graduation rates of Hispanics and Blacks, while in China parents take the blame. This is another significant difference between China and the United States. In China it would be unthinkable to wage war against the nation’s teachers for children who don’t learn. Instead, parents, who cared, and teachers would work together to do what they could as partners.

Zhang Yimou was the director. He says, “Chinese culture is still rooted in the countryside. If you don’t know the peasant, you don’t know China.” Because of this, there is a strong message in this movie about the urban–rural divide, which is being addressed as China sews the nation together with high-speed rail and electricity.

This a powerful movie about children, education, and poverty that shows the challenges China faces in lifting the lifestyles of almost eight hundred million Chinese, who don’t live in the cities. The challenge is to do this without losing the cultural values that flow through Chinese history like a powerful river.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves.

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Is this an example of “Lost in Translation” or something else?

April 22, 2014

In China, learning English in the public schools is mandatory but speaking English like a native doesn’t always work well when you’re learning from a cartoon character called Mocky the naughty monkey.

Michael Meyer, the author of “The Last Days of Old Beijing” had this to say about Mocky: “Beijing students begin studying English in Grade One. Every child is enrolled in three forty-five-minute lessons each week until the end of elementary school, at Grade Six. Much of Mocky’s instruction is automated, reducing the teacher’s role to leading students through recitations of the dialogues, animated on a disc included with the text. Although Mocky speaks slowly, he sounds as if he’s inhaled some bad helium.”

Recently a friend shared the following e-mail (starts after the 1st video) with me and said it had gone viral among the Chinese. Because I’ve watched a number of Chinese films with English subtitles and knew about Mocky the naughty monkey, it was easy to read the e-mail and believe it was an example of “lost in translation” gone LOL crazy.


The viral E-mail starts next and ends before the 2nd video:

A friend went to Beijing recently and was given this brochure by the hotel.

She is keeping it and reading it whenever she feels depressed. The brochure has been translated directly, word for word, from Mandarin to English.

Getting There:

Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. The manager will await you in the entrance hall. He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

The Hotel:

This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome. We of course are always pleased to accept adultery. Highly skilled nurses are available in the evenings to put down your children. Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others. But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar. We organize social games, so no guest is ever left alone to play with them self.

The Restaurant:

Our menus have been carefully chosen to be ordinary and unexciting. At dinner, our quartet will circulate from table to table, and fiddle with you.

Your Room:

Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts. In winter, every room is on heat. Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity!

You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.

Bed:

Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition. If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid. Please take advantage of her. She will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear. If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

Above All:

When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope. You will struggle to forget it.

The punchline, as it turns out, is that the original e-mail that went viral was an April fool’s joke and one person who thought it was real forwarded it to everyone he knew who forwarded it again—going viral.

Also discover Translating “We Do Chicken Right”

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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